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J Skin Cancer. 2011;2011:273280. doi: 10.1155/2011/273280. Epub 2011 Sep 20.

The contribution of electron paramagnetic resonance to melanoma research.

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  • 1Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Research Group, Louvain Drug Research Institute (LDRI/REMA), Université Catholique de Louvain, Avenue Mounier 73.40, 1200 Brussels, Belgium.


The incidence of malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is rising each year. However, some aspects of the tumor initiation and development are still unclear, and the current method of diagnosis, based on the visual aspect of the tumor, shows limitations. For these reasons, developments of new techniques are ongoing to improve basic knowledge on the disease and diagnosis of tumors in individual patients. This paper shows how electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR), a method able to detect free radicals trapped in melanin pigments, has recently brought its unique value to this specific field. The general principles of the method and the convenience of melanin as an endogenous substrate for EPR measurements are explained. Then, the way by which EPR has recently helped to assess the contribution of ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB) to the initiation of melanoma is described. Finally, we describe the improvements of EPR spectrometry and imaging in the detection and mapping of melanin pigments inside ex vivo and in vivo melanomas. We discuss how these advances might improve the diagnosis of this skin cancer and point out the present capabilities and limitations of the method.

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